The Utah Sentencing Commission on Wednesday endorsed changes to two laws that would offer prosecutors the chance to charge minors with lesser crimes depending on the youth's age.

The commission will recommend that state lawmakers adopt these changes.

The issues came to light earlier this year in Davis County when several teens began taking pictures of their breasts and genitals and sent the photos to their friends. At least 19 cases resulted and all but a few were handled in a nonjudicial adjudication with parents and teens meeting with a juvenile probation officer to address the problem.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he faced a problem because the only in-court option he had was to charge the teens with felonies, but he was reluctant to do that with 13- and 14-year-olds.

The law changes affect two laws that cover distributing materials harmful to a minor and distributing pornography.

The proposed amendments sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, would make it a third-degree felony for someone over 18 to engage in this type of behavior.

Someone who is 16 or 17 could be charged with a class A misdemeanor. A youth under age 16 could face a class B misdemeanor.

Allen believes these revisions to the law will help prosecutors by providing additional options. These also will provide adequate consequences for unacceptable behavior but will not impose an unduly harsh penalties on juveniles.

"We should not treat them as adults," Allen said Wednesday.

Commission member Kathy Reimherr cast the sole dissenting vote.

"I think we should be very careful before we put any kind of charges against teenagers," she said after the meeting. "I just worry about things that happen when you're young and an idiot haunting you the rest of your life."


E-mail: lindat@desnews.com